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Iraq releases three US contractors held in murder case

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A daily summary of global reports on security issues.

After holding them for nearly a week, Iraqi officials have released three of the five US contractors arrested as part of the investigation of last month's Green Zone murder. Although the men are not allowed to leave Iraq, they have been released from jail because off the lack of evidence against them. The contractors say they are innocent of any wrongdoing.

Last month, American contractor Jim Kitterman was found stabbed to death and wrapped in plastic inside Baghdad's secure Green Zone. The five contractors were arrested during a raid on their compound last week. Although Iraqi officials initially implied they might be connected with the killing, they have not been formally charged with a crime and the reasons for their detention remain unclear. An Iraqi judge said Wednesday that the allegations against the men were unwarranted.

If any of the men are charged and brought before the court, the incident will mark the first time US contractors have been forced to face justice in the Iraqi legal system as part of the new US-Iraqi security agreement that took affect this year. The BBC reports that the case of the five US contractors is being seen as a test of this new agreement.

The role of US contractors came under intense scrutiny after the killing of up to 17 civilians in Baghdad in 2007 by private security guards from the US company Blackwater.
The incident led the Iraqi government to revoke the immunity from prosecution that private contractors had enjoyed in the first six years of the war. Under the new joint security pact, private contractors are wholly bound by Iraqi law.
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